With Virgin Australia’s new flights from Melbourne to Hong Kong now on sale, booking an economy ticket doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be stuck in economy class... business class upgrades are available using either Velocity frequent flyer points or cash.
But not all fares are eligible for points-based upgrades, nor are upgrades always guaranteed: here’s what you need to know before you book your Virgin Australia flight, and how to upgrade that booking once it’s been paid for.
Virgin Australia Melbourne-Hong Kong business class upgrades: the basics
As is the case with Virgin Australia’s flights to Los Angeles, upgrades using Velocity points on Melbourne-Hong Kong are restricted to Velocity Gold and Platinum members only – and even then, can only be requested when travelling on an economy Freedom fare, not the cheaper Getaway or Elevate fares.
(If you're taking a return journey with one flight booked as a Freedom fare and the other as a Getaway or Elevate fare, only the flight booked under a Freedom fare can be upgraded.)
Note also that the complimentary upgrade certificates provided to Velocity Platinum members cannot be used for an upgrade on these flights – those are valid only on domestic flights and journeys closer to home, such as to New Zealand, Fiji and Indonesia.
Velocity Red and Silver members can't use their Velocity points to upgrade to business class on these flights at all, regardless of their fare type.
Use Velocity points to upgrade to business class on Melbourne-Hong Kong
Have that shiny Velocity Gold or Platinum card in-hand and booked yourself on a Freedom fare?
You’ll also need 27,500 Velocity points (per passenger, one-way) for that business class upgrade, which you can request by calling Virgin Australia on 13 18 75 from the moment you book until at least two hours before your flight’s scheduled departure time.
Note that Virgin Australia’s own website doesn’t yet display the availability of upgrades (and business class frequent flyer reward seats) on its Melbourne-Hong Kong flights, although searches using ExpertFlyer reveal that upgrades are readily available on most flights to and from Hong Kong – these can be secured over the phone using the number above.
(We’d expect the airline’s website to eventually permit online upgrade requests on this new route, but until then, the contact centre is your friend.)
If an upgrade is available on your flight, you’ll be able to lock it in instantly – and if it’s not, can have your name added to a ‘waitlist’ for consideration closer to departure.
Platinum frequent flyers get priority over Gold-tier members when upgrading via that waitlist, learning of their success (or failure) up to five days before the flight, versus three days for Velocity Gold members.
Points for the upgrade will be deducted from your account, but only if – and when – the upgrade is successful. If no upgrades are available when you call and you luck-out via the waitlist, all of your points stay exactly where they are.
Velocity Gold and Platinum members can also upgrade other travellers on the same booking for the same number of points per flight. These passengers don't need to hold Gold or Platinum status themselves, nor must they be a ‘family member’ such as required for family pooling.
Upgrading to business class via UpgradeMe Premium Bid
If you don’t have Velocity Gold or Platinum status, or are travelling on a fare that’s not upgradeable using Velocity points, the other way to upgrade is via ‘UpgradeMe Premium Bid’.
This system allows travellers on all paid fare types to offer an additional amount of cash for that upgrade, excluding flyers who’ve used Velocity points to book their economy ticket.
Start by visiting the UpgradeMe Premium Bid page on the Virgin Australia website, where you can enter the amount of your offer – or ‘bid’, as the airline names it – within set minimum and maximum amounts. It’s much the same process as for Virgin Australia domestic flights:
Bids can be submitted up until 26 hours before the flight, with the result of your offer advised by email within 24 hours of departure. If your bid is accepted, the credit card you supplied will be charged with the amount of that offer, and if not, you’ll keep your original seat at no added cost.
If your credit card number or expiry date changes between when your offer is submitted and the time of your flight, you’ll need to return to the website and update your bid with your latest details, as a declined credit card transaction means a declined upgrade request.
Virgin Australia business class upgrades: final tips
As with other Virgin Australia flights, travellers who upgrade to business class using either Velocity points or by making an offer/bid will earn frequent flyer points and status credits in line with their original economy fare, rather than at the higher business class rates.
Also, the usual business class baggage allowance does not apply when moving yourself forward via UpgradeMe Premium Bid. Other benefits like lounge access and priority check-in are available, but the bags you can bring with you are also defined by your original ticket.
(This doesn’t apply when using Velocity points for that business class upgrade, in which case the full business class baggage allowance will apply.)
Speaking of Velocity points: if you use points to book your original economy flight to or from Hong Kong – typically called a ‘Reward Seat’ – you won’t be able to upgrade that flight using either points or cash, so only book economy with points if you’re happy to stay there.
Regardless of how you try to upgrade, also keep in mind that Virgin Australia intentionally keeps some business class seats available for last-minute sales and to accommodate those who change their flight plans, so don’t expect every seat in the cabin to be filled with upgraded passengers.